Despite the rampant resort-building elsewhere on the island, the lush valleys of Kauai’s Na Pali coast remain inviolate – though accessible enough by canoe to sustain large Hawaiian populations, their awesome walls shield them from any attempt to build roads. Separated each from the next by knife-edge ridges of rock thousands of feet high but just a few feet thick, they make Kauai one of the world’s great hiking destinations.
The Kalalau Trail along the shore, which starts alongside Kee Beach, is unforgettable. The full eleven-mile trek to Kalalau Valley is arduous and gets progressively more dangerous; in places you have to scramble along a precipitous (and shadeless) wall of crumbly red rock.
However, the first two miles of the trail, to Hanakapiai Beach, are the most beautiful. They’re steep but straightforward, passing through patches of dense vegetation where you clamber over the gnarled root systems of the splay-footed hala (pandanus) tree. From the beach, a further hour’s arduous hike (off the main trail) leads inland to the natural amphitheatre of the towering Hanakapiai Falls. It takes at least four and a half hours to get to the falls and back from the trailhead.